What made you start playing the vibes and what do you like most about the instrument?
“I always knew I was going to be a musician when I was about 13 years old but no-one believed me or encouraged me. At the time I was obsessed with the pop/rock music of the day & didn't like jazz. I started to play drums aged 15 & joined a band with some school friends. When I was 16 I started to play piano. I had lessons for a few months on both but never got to a high standard & pretty much gave up a few years later. By the time i was 24 i was working in a record shop in London & was beginning to explore jazz & heard a vibes player called Bobby Hutcherson who I liked the sound of. He was from California but happened to be playing in London soon after. I went to see him play & fell in love with the vibraphone & bought one a few months later having never played one before in my life. But I had a head start as it was a combination of piano & drums which I had played briefly almost 10 years before. I love the sound of the vibraphone – it can be very peaceful but also very percussive.”
What can we expect to hear at your gig in Hastings on Tuesday 5th April?
“In Hastings I will be playing with my regular quartet of highly respected British jazz musicians – Robin Aspland on piano, Simon Thorpe on bass & Winston Clifford on drums. We have been working together for over 15 years so there's a rapport between us that people often pick up on & are excited about. The last gig we played at the Hastings jazz Club we got a standing ovation so I'm looking forward to a large & enthusiastic audience. It will be an evening of contrasts – some ballads showing off the beautiful sound of the vibraphone & some fast swinging tunes that highlight the amazing soloing abilities of the musicians as well as the tightness of the ensemble playing.”
Who are your favourite vibraphonists, and which non-vibes players have influenced you?
“Bobby Hutcherson was the vibes player who initially influenced me but since then I have discovered there's a very good reason why all the others are as well known as they are. These days I like them all & they have all been an influence – from Lionel Hampton to Milt Jackson to Gary Burton to Roy Ayers to Cal Tjader & Mike Mainieiri as well as many others. Growing up only really appreciating pop & rock music meant that the guitar was a particularly big influence on me. In rock my biggest heroes were Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia & Peter Green although there are many others too. My route to jazz was through fusion & the guitarists in that genre that influenced me most were/are Robben Ford, Scott Henderson, Pat Metheny, John Scofield & Hiram Bullock but again, there are many others. In jazz I love Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Charlie Christian & Jim Hall amongst others. But then other musicians have been a big influence – from Donny Hathaway. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye & Aretha Franklin to Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon. In fact you don't have room for all the musicians who have influenced me!”
Your last album was released in 2013 (Mind The Gap) and was critically acclaimed. Are you planning on doing another album?
“Yes, there is a new album planned. In fact there are a few new albums planned. Various personal elements have conspired to put my projects back but I'm hoping to record a new quartet album in the next few months for release early 2017.”
Roger Beaujolais appears at JazzHastings on Tuesday 5th April.